Sermon: Pentecost 10C, Sunday July 28, 2013, St Petri
A Praying “Pest”
1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” 2 He said to them, “When you pray, say:“‘Father,hallowed be your name,your kingdom come.3 Give us each day our daily bread.4 Forgive us our sins,for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.And lead us not into temptation.’”5 Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 7 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity[e] he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for[f] a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Some people are really persistent. They just never give up no matter how many knock-backs they get. I reckon those Tour de France cyclist are persistent, as are lots of sport people.
In life too, there is that need to just hang in there with things – that DIY project, your marriage, parenting/shaping your children, completing year 11 and 12 or another semester or study at Uni, paying off the loan/mortgage, supporting your friend when things are not going well….. Persistence is key in healthy relationships and achieving good things.
Those following Jesus noticed he had a persistence about him. His persistence seemed to come from something he did that they did not. Jesus would often withdraw from view – sometimes even over night, and when asked about where he had been he would say he had been “praying”.
Finally they ask the question about his way of praying. “Jesus, show us how to pray like you”, they ask. Great question!
Jesus does two things straight away. He gives them a prayer for all situations and shows them how to use this great gift of his very own prayer.
This is such a special prayer for us Christians. Of course “familiarity can breed contempt” or just plain dullness of heart. So we can relegate this unique and all conquering prayer to the status of “tradition” or “old” or “religion”. What a misjudgement that is for anyone of any age.
Here’s four reasons why we might pray the Lord’s Prayer a lot. As we pray the Lord’s Prayer;
1. God’s in this prayer: When we find it hard to pray or when we just cannot bring ourselves to pray, or when we just don’t know how to pray, we can pray this prayer and we can trust that Jesus is praying his prayer with us and for us at the same time. We can help a friend do the same. We can trust that when we pray his prayer we are right in line with God’s good will for us in our praying.
2. We are keeping God’s name high: We are honouring the Lord’s name in our day because we are keeping his name special, or holy and honoured. We are not using his name to curse people, swear, lie about things or deceive people for our own selfish gain (which is how God’s name is often used). We are not using the Lord’s great name in the occult and evil practice as many do. By praying Jesus’ gift to us – “Holy or Hallowed be your name, Lord”, we are using God’s precious name to seek what we need, for help in all our trouble and pain, to pray for others, pray for this troubled world, pray for the our church.
3. We are covering all the bases. There are seven requests we pray in this one jam-packed prayer of Jesus
I. “Holy be your name”: That God keep his name holy and honoured in us, and that he help us to do the same by using his name to speak his word, seek him, ask him, knock on his door and give thanks for the way he responds to us
II. “Your kingdom come”: That the Lord’s way and presence surround us and holds us.
III. “Your will be done”: That Jesus’ will and leading in his Word wins the day in our day.
IV. “Daily bread”: That we have the basics/the essentials of life to keep serving Jesus.
V. “Forgive us as we forgive”: For forgiveness of our lack of trust in Jesus and honouring of his name and promises, and for help in forgiving others as the ambassadors of Jesus’ forgiveness that we called to be
VI. “Lead us”: That Jesus would save us from hard testing and overbearing temptation to leave him and give up his church and faith in him
VII. “Save us”: Daily protection from harm and walking in the freedom and victory over evil within and around us that we keep on track for that final triumph for which we are destined.
This prayer of Jesus covers our day and our life and all our trouble.
4. We pray it with all Christians. We draw enormous strength from knowing that when we pray this prayer of Jesus, we know that we pray it with a million Christians across the world in all languages and places.
How to use the Prayer
Then Jesus shows us how to use his gift of prayer. As usual, he does this by way of a story…
Late one evening an unexpected visitor comes to a man’s home. But, as this man welcomed his friend at the door, we can imagine him thinking, “How am going to feed this bloke!”, because he is out of bread.
Having no bread to offer a guest might not seem a big deal to you and me – for a couple of reasons. The BP is always open! Plus, there are more things to eat than just bread now days. Not so here.
For this man, having no bread would be like inviting some friends over for dinner and just not giving them any dinner at all!
See, in this man’s town everybody is supposed to have something for their guests! If this happened, think of what it will be like down at Foodland in the morning……Mr’s Schmidt will whisper to Mr Eli, “Did you hear that the man at No 31 didn’t feed his guests last night?” Oh yes! I heard that he kicked his guest out on the street!” “O the shame of it!”
This man has to act. He goes next door and does the extremely unorthodox thing of yelling out at the front door to his sleeping neighbour, “Hey, mate! My friend has just arrived and I can’t feed him, can you give me three loaves of bread?” He doesn’t want just one loaf but three! He wants a lot.
But his neighbour says, “No way. It’s midnight and I and my family are in bed”. In other words, “Go away!”
Jesus ends the little story by saying, “I tell you, even though the in-bed neighbour will not get up and give the homeowner some bread because the unexpected guest is his friend, the in-bed neighbour will get up and give the homeowner what he needs because of that homeowner’s persistence.
Actually, in the original language, the word for “persistence” here is more like “shamlesness”. The in-bed neighbour will give the homeowner what he needs because of the homeowner’s shamelessness – his shameless asking for what he needs.
What’s Jesus’ point about prayer?
It is quite OK to be shameless in our speaking and listening to the Lord. No need to hold back for fear of shame. There is no shame in seeking, asking and knocking on God’s door for everything.
It is quite OK to be very, very persistent in our speaking and listening the Lord. Jesus says that when it comes to listening and talking with our heavenly Father, we can be like the 3-year-old boy who went to the supermarket with his mum.
Before they entered the shop, mum had certain instructions for the little tike: “Now you’re not going to get any Smarties, so don’t even ask.”
She put him in the child’s seat and off they went up and down the aisles. He was doing just fine until they came to the lolly section. Seeing the Smarties he said, “Mum, can I have some Smarties?” She said, “I told you not even to ask. You’re not going to get any at all.”
They continued down the aisles, but in their search for certain items she had to back track and they ended up in the lolly aisle again. “Mum, can I please have some Smarties?” She said, “I told you that you can’t have any. Now sit down and be quiet.”
Finally, they arrived at the checkout. The little boy sensed that the end was in sight, that this might be his last chance. He stood up on the seat and shouted in his loudest voice, “In the name of Jesus, may I have a box of Smarties?!”
Everyone in the checkout lanes laughed and applauded. Do you think the little boy got his Smarties? You bet! He even got a couple of extra boxes from a couple of people at the checkout!
The little guy was a real “pest”! He threw away social conventions, political correctness, fear of being looked upon with shame and asked anyway!
It is quite OK to be very, very persistent in our speaking and listening the Lord.
It is quite OK to be dependent on him for every need – to be “co-dependent” or even over-reliant on Him for our day.
Being shameless, persistent and dependent on the Lord depends on one thing. Faith: Faith that God is indeed your “Abba” – your kind and loving parent and not some distracted, uncaring, distant or judgemental one – like your own parents may be at times.
The posture of Christian prayer is a child speaking to and listening to a loving parent who would never give you a death giving scorpion when you asked for a life-giving egg.
How does that go with you?
Trouble in praying is trouble with faith.
If you are having trouble trusting that the Lord really is your own kind and loving parent who is personally invested in you and on who is longing to embrace you, protect you, save you from hard testing, give you a way through your darkest time, surround you with his loving in his people at church, then it is not a time problem, or a shyness issue or a personality thing as much as a trust issue – an issue of the heart.
Three reasons why we might struggle to simply ask, seek and knock, as Jesus recommends we do are fear, selfish pride and/or lack of faith.
Fear: If we are fearful that God would not listen to us because are just too unholy, too weak, too sinful, too alone, too unworthy, we will mouth this beautiful prayer with the heart disengaged and be glad it is over.
Selfish Pride: If we are into ourselves – trusting our own ability and moral uprightness and religious observances and etc…. we will not bother praying this prayer with any real intent. We will believe we don’t need any of what it seeks from God.
Lack of Faith: We will just go on quietly believing that the prayer does not work, God does not work, things cannot change, and conclude that it is not worth believing in this prayer or in the God who it seeks. Why bother praying for God’s kingdom to break into our lives, or for the Lord to forgive me and set me free and give me victory over the things with which I am confronted.
Friend, God, your kind and loving parent in life and death gives extravagant gifts to people who don’t deserve them but desperately need them.
You are that three year old asking for Smarties from the your heavenly Father – Jesus, his Son says, ask, seek knock again and again, without fearing shame, with persistence and with great dependence on him.
You’re free to be quite a shameless, “pest’ when it comes to speaking and listening to your heavenly Father. Be a “pest”. Ask, Seek, Knock. You can because he is your heavenly Father.
Our Father in heaven, help us to ask you for everything and persist in prayer for what we need and for what other people need. Amen.
1. Share your experiences of learning and praying the Lord’s Prayer….Who first taught you this prayer. How as it used in your family or church? What have you come to think about the Lord’s Prayer?
2. Read through it in Luke 11 and Matthew noting the different context and the slightly different form of the two versions. Talk about what you discover and share you questions…
3. Now we have reflected on the prayer Jesus gave to us, read through the little story he speaks t show us how to use the Lord’s prayer (and any prayer). Note what come to mind as you read through the story about the neighbour asking for bread and how he asks, seeks and knocks on his neighbour’s door to receive what he needs.
4. How then is Jesus saying we need to approach prayer in general and using his own prayer?
5. The word for “persistence” also can be translated as “shameless”. Have you ever prayed a shameless prayer to the Lord for help and more than once? Share your stories.
6. I suggested that the Lord’s Prayer presupposes trust in the Lord as your kind and loving heavenly Father.
a. This is not always easy to do because of the mentors and role models we have had and still have. Our parents are or were not always models of kind and loving words and behaviour. They are or were human.
b. In what way have you come to trust God as your own heavenly Father?
c. If so, what helped? If not, what makes it so hard for you?
7. What stops you from praying in this “bold” kind of way like the neighbour at night or Abraham when he sought the Lord’s forgiveness for Sodom (Genesis 18:20-32 – the Old Testament reading for last Sunday).
8. I suggested it was Fear, Selfish Pride and Lack of Faith. How does this work in your life and what helps you keep praying despite these things?
9. Luther suggests that Christian might pray the Lord’s Prayer three times a day and suggests that this is the way we keep the second Commandment to keep the Lord’s name holy in our living and relationships (see Large Catechism introduction to the Lord’s Prayer). By speaking his word among ourselves and to any one when the occasion presents itself and by putting the Word into action and giving God all the thanks and praise or everything, we keep his name holy.
When we pray this prayer – particularly the Hallowed be your name” and the “Your Kingdom come, your will be done”, we are using the precious name of God very well – not to curse, swear, lie or deceive or in occult and evil practice (which is often how people use the name of God in our community!). But we are using it to ask, seek, knock and give thanks to him for life and all good gifts he gives.
We could go so far as to say that praying the Lord’s prayer (and any other prayer) guards us against trusting in other people and things for our well-being (idolatry) and keeps us living faithfully in Christ throughout the day.
What place do you give the Lord’s Prayer in your day? Have you ever prayed it alone at a set time and might this be something for you to practice?